The U.S. Secretary of State pointed to Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg -- a Catholic priest who during World War II resisted the Nazi regime and helped Jewish families -- and to the Chinese martyrs and missionaries canonized by St. John Paul II as examples of a "bold moral witness."
"An increasingly repressive CCP frightened by its own lack of democratic legitimacy works day and night to snuff out the lamp of freedom, especially religious freedom on a horrifying scale," Pompeo said.
"The Chinese Communist Party has battered every religious community in China: Protestant house churches, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and more," he said.
"Nor, of course, have Catholics been spared this wave of repression. Catholic churches and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed. Catholic bishops, like Augustine Cui Tai, have been imprisoned ... and Catholic lay leaders in the human rights movement, not least in Hong Kong have been arrested," the U.S. diplomat added.
Immediately following Pompeo's remarks, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, gave a speech focused on the importance of protecting freedom of conscience in the West.
The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that afterwards Gallagher affirmed that Pompeo's visit sought to exploit the pope during the U.S. election campaign. But journalists present when the comments were made said that it was the reporter, not the archbishop, who used the word "exploit." Gallagher responded by saying: "Well, that's one of the reasons why the Holy Father is not receiving the Secretary of State."
While the pope does not always meet with foreign ministers visiting the Vatican, the Holy See has reportedly told U.S. diplomats that the pope did not want to meet with an American political figure so close to the November presidential election.
Cardinal Parolin (pictured above) was not present at the symposium when Pompeo gave his speech, but came later to deliver the closing remarks, in which he did not mention China.
Parolin said earlier this month that the Vatican's two-year provisional agreement with China had not expired and would not do so until October. The cardinal said that the Vatican expected to renew the interim deal on the appointment of bishops and that he hoped that the Chinese had the same intention.
The symposium in Rome focused on diplomatic tools to advance religious freedom, and included panel discussions with the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In his comments at the conference, Ambassador Brownback said: "I believe the key to peace … is the protection of religious freedom for all."
Pompeo said that, as a Protestant Christian, he had been struck by Pope Francis' call to be a Church permanently in a state of mission.
"Pope Francis has exhorted the Church to be 'permanently in a state of mission.' It's a hope that resonates with this evangelical Protestant who believes, as the Holy Father does, that those of us given the gift of Christian faith have an obligation to do our best to bless others," he said.
"I'm humbled too by those of you here who have spent your entire lives in service of God in full-time pastoral ministry, makes my job look easy," the U.S. Secretary of State said.